Recently I am learning English and becoming interested in people who are in between different cultures. I have read stories of drifters from Japan to foreign countries in the Edo era and of diplomats coming to Japan from Europe at the end of the Edo era.
Now I'd like to know about people who are between different cultures today, so I have read Ikuo Kawakami's book "I am also one of the "moving children" ".
This book is very interesting.
In this book Kawakami wrote down ten interviews he conducted with "moving children" who were brought up moving between different language environments.
Of the ten interviews I am most interested in Thane Camus's story about his complicated background, and I am impressed with MC NAM's story in which he uncovered his own identity through rap.
Thane Camus was born in America. His father was a French American and his mother was English. She remarried with a Japanese man. Thane Camus was moving around the Bahamas, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece and Japan.
When he lived in Lebanon, he spoke Arabic and French when he was outside and English, Arabic and French when he was at home. When he reached the first grade, his family moved to Japan, and he entered a public school in the neighborhood. He made a great effort to learn Japanese. He said "To play with friends of mine, I had to communicate in Japanese. It was the shortcut of mastering Japanese."(p18) On the other hand he also studied English to combat his declining ability to use it, but even now he isn't good at reading English.
He went to university in New York. He said "When I was living in America, my friends treated me as an American. But I didn’t involve myself in American culture as deep as them."(p28)
To learn of his complicated background changes my impression of him.
MC NAM was born in Kobe as a child of so called "boat people" from Vietnam. He had not learned Vietnamene language very much. He gave himself a Japanese name, and concealed his Vietnamese origin. After he dropped out of high school, he came across rap.
At first he wanted to conceal his Vietnamese background when he sang rap songs, but he said, "If I conceal my background, I can't sing a candid rap song whilst living and acting like myself."(p186) He heard how his mother had run away from Vietnam, and he said "I'd like to tell all of what I conceal, the fact that I am a Vietnamese. I wrote the rap song “My Song” about my mother’s story and my Vietnamese background."(p187)
This is the song "My Song".
After he wrote this song, he learned the Vietnamese language in Vietnam. Now he is working as a rapper in Japan.
The song "My Song" expresses a moment when he overcame an incredible hurdle in his life. This song makes a very deep impression on me.